Two businesses owners in Tennessee are challenging a new, first-of-its-kind Tennessee law that would require businesses and other entities that open their facilities to the public and allow transgender people to use the restroom that matches their gender to post a government-prescribed warning sign. The ACLU and the ACLU of Tennessee filed the lawsuit in federal court and claim it violates the First Amendment rights of the business owners.
Kye Sayers, owner of the Sanctuary performing arts and community center in Chattanooga and Bob Bernstein, owner of Fido restaurant in Nashville, have informal policies allowing customers to determine which restroom is appropriate for them, and have not had any complaints or concerns raised about their restroom policies.
If the law goes into effect, any business that fails to prevent transgender and intersex people from using the restroom that most aligns with who they are would be forced to post signs with the word “NOTICE” in yellow on a red background at the top, followed by text stating, “THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM,” or face criminal charges. The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
While courts have recognized that businesses can be required to display factual and noncontroversial information, they have repeatedly ruled that forcing a business owner to display a sign for the sole purpose of promoting a political viewpoint is unconstitutional.
UPDATE: On May 17, 2022, the district court issued a permanent injunction striking down the law.
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District Court (M.D. Tenn.)